The Best Pokémon for the Holiday Cup

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After going through the usual Great and Ultra League, the first cour of Pokémon GO Battle League’s Season 6 will end with a few variations. Master League and its Premier Cup will now be open to pokémon up to level 50, which means that the vast majority of the playerbase won’t be able to compete in them at all anymore. Only the old open Master League meta will survive (for now) in the so-called Classic format, with a level 40 cap. Luckily, Niantic is going to give another option to players that don’t have maxed out legendaries and XL pokémon — or that just don’t enjoy Master League in the first place.

From December 28th, 2020 to January 4th, 2021 we will also be able to compete in the Holiday Cup, a restricted format with a 1500 CP cap, where only Normal, Ghost, Electric, Flying, Ice and Grass pokémon are allowed.

In this article we’re going to take a look at all the best picks for the Holiday Cup, recommend their optimal movesets and analyze their different roles, to hopefully help you put together your best and most balanced team.

Charm Users

Just like in the Kanto Cup, the last type-restricted one, you should expect many opposing teams to feature some kind of Fairy-type equipped with the oppressive fast move of Charm. Well, one of them in particular.

Charm + Ice Beam & Play Rough

By now, Wiggly has solidified its place as the go-to Charm user in the Great League, thanks once again to the Normal typing giving it a key edge against Alolan Marowak (still a losing matchup, but only slightly) and other Ghosts. It works as straightforward as always: keep on tapping, spend your shields, eventually take down anything that doesn’t resist Fairy.

Whimsicott, Alolan Ninetales and Togekiss can also work in this role, though their subtypings aren’t quite as solid against the meta. Most notable is the fact that they can be used alongside Wigglytuff for an evil double Charm strategy that will annoy your opponents (including the writer of this article) but might prove quite effective in this meta. Alolan Marowak would be the most fitting lead for this build, as it can handle Steel- and Poison-types, with Wiggly on the safe switch, and the other Fairy as the closer.

Counter Users

There are no actual big Fighters in this meta, but two Normal-types with Counter stand out for their wide spread of neutral and positive matchups. They make for great, spammy generalists, especially with shields up

Counter + Body Slam & Bulldoze

With very few pokémon actually walling it, the hyperactive monkey can put in so much work in its favorite role, the safe switch. With shields and an energy advantage it has win conditions against most of its supposed counters, including Wigglytuff, Alolan Marowak, Altaria, Skarmory and Venusaur. Vigoroth switch-ins will likely be common in the Holiday Cup, so make your own plan to handle them.

Counter + Night Slash & Cross Chop or Gunk Shot

Getting deleted by Charm and losing to Vigoroth itself, Obstagoon isn’t as much of a safe generalist. It makes up for that by actually functioning as a counter to Alolan Marowak, and having the possibility to boost its own Attack stat with Night Slash. There’s some debate to be had around the second charged move, as Cross Chop can flip the Vigoroth matchup (and help with tanks like Lapras, Dewgong and Snorlax), while Gunk Shot offers a last resort against Fairies. Even Hyper Beam is actually viable, as the surprise factor might come in handy from time to time!

Like for Charm users, we should consider the possibility of doubling up on the Fighting coverage and running both Vigoroth and Obstagoon in the same team, which actually looks like a decent strategy. A Steel-type lead like Skarmory would complement them quite well, being able to handle Fairies, Altaria and Victreebel.

Countering Fairy

Most balanced Holiday lineups should include at least one dedicated Fairy counter, be it a Fire-, Steel- or Poison-type. Luckily, we have some good ones available to keep those annoying Charm users in check.

Fire Spin + Shadow Bone* & Bone Club

A-Wak always seems to find a way to sneak in these restricted formats! It is actually quite centralizing in this meta, being able to handle both Vigoroth and Fairies while also beating every other counter to Fairy in this section. The raid-exclusive charged move of Shadow Bone is not a must, but it’s generally still an upgrade to Shadow Ball, making most matchups less bait-dependent, including Skarmory and the mirror. Speaking of the mirror match, if you want to ensure that win you can also run the alternative moveset of Hex, Shadow Bone and Fire Blast. Landing the Blast can be really satisfying, but be prepared to struggle a lot more against Wigglytuff and Skarmory.

Fire Spin or Dragon Breath* + Blast Burn* & Dragon Claw

A-Wak is not the only Fire-type available in the Holiday Cup: Charizard can go toe to toe with it and has a better matchup against Obstagoon, and with Dragon Breath it can handle Altaria too. However, it has an extra weakness to Electric and it’s so squishy that it can go down to Vigoroth and to a double-shielded Charm user.

Air Slash + Sky Attack & Brave Bird

Much like Charizard, the Steel bird has better matchups against Obstagoon and a much easier time against Altaria compared to Alolan Marowak, but it’s very weak to Electric and also vulnerable to Fire itself. Being such a popular pokémon to begin with, we should expect to see it nearly as often as Marowak, unless the meta ends up shifting heavily towards Electric. If you have a decent Shadow variant, hold off investing on it just yet: it generally trails behind the regular one, though it does have its own niche advantages.

Thunder Shock + Magnet Bomb & Discharge

Despite its extremely frail nature, Magneton can still eke out wins against Altaria and Wigglytuff while also functioning as a hard counter to Skarmory, which fills a very similar role. It is a riskier pick though, as it goes down very quickly to Fire, Fighting and Ground damage. Having to rely on Wild Charge for most of its damage output, the evolved form Magnezone has to deal with even higher risks (needing to bait to take down Altaria and Wigglytuff) but it can be quite rewarding too.

Powder Snow + Ice Punch & Bulldoze

It shares most weaknesses and matchups with Magneton, so just pick your favorite here. A-Slash is bulkier and has much more comfortable wins over Altaria and Grass-types, but the Ice coverage also hurts its matchups against fellow Ice-types.

Razor Leaf + Leaf Blade & Acid Spray

The lack of Water and Ground targets, the prominence of hard counters like Alolan Marowak, Skarmory and Altaria, and the fact that two of them function in the same anti-Fairy role, are all factors that should contribute to make Shadow Victreebel a little less popular and oppressive than usual here. On the other hand, being the only thing able to farm down both Charm and Counter users alike, you can bet it will stick around

Vine Whip + Frenzy Plant* & Sludge Bomb

As usual, Venusaur functions in the same role as Victreebel, just in the opposite way — dealing damage through charged moves instead of farming down with Razor Leaf. Pick one or the other depending on your own playstyle and game plan, and remember that Venusaur does counter Victreebel and other Razor Leaf users.

Wing Attack + Poison Fang & Shadow Ball

only other Fairy counter able to also defeat Alolan Marowak, though it’s an often bait-dependent matchup (even more so for the Shadow variant, which is generally inferior as a result). The double resistance to Counter allows it to hang with Vigoroth and Obstagoon too, although it doesn’t convincingly counter either. It does have other weaknesses, most notably to Steel-, Electric- and Ice-types.

Countering Alolan Marowak

You might have noticed that out of all the pokémon analyzed so far, Obstagoon is the only one that actually counters Alolan Marowak. If you aren’t going to bring Obstagoon, we recommend picking up something else from this section to still keep the pesky Ghost in check.

Dragon Breath + Sky Attack & Dragon Pulse

Without Azumarill and Galarian Stunfisk around, the fluffiest Dragon looks extremely strong in the Holiday Cup. It still has to carefully avoid Fairy- and Ice-types, but it does a good job at handling almost everything else: Alolan Marowak, Vigoroth, Obstagoon, Grass-types, even Skarmory as long as shields are up. And just like Skarmory, you can expect to face it quite often.

Thunder Shock + Mud Bomb & Discharge

It’s no Galarian, but the OG variant of Stunfisk is still very good here. It can act as a great generalist, only getting hard countered by Grass, and holding its own quite well in most neutral matchups. Even against Wigglytuff it can narrowly take the 1-shield scenario (depending on IVs, as it needs to hit a bulkpoint), while against Altaria it only really wins with shields down. Thunder Shock is particularly useful in that matchup, and most likely the better pick overall, considering that it doesn’t need Mud Shot to beat Alolan Marowak. If Stunfisk ends up becoming common, Mud Shot could gain more value for the super effective damage in the mirror match.

Volt Switch + Rock Blast & Stone Edge

If you enjoyed using the Alolan Rocks in the Kanto Cup, you should give them one more try. Only really scared of Fighting, Grass and Ground, their matchups against the meta are quite impressive otherwise. They can tank one Bone Club to take down Alolan Marowak, they absolutely wreck Skarmory, and can hang with Altaria even in the 2-shield scenario, though some baiting might be needed there. Even Wigglytuff has to respect the nuke potential of Stone Edge, which is generally more useful than Wild Charge. That further cementifies Graveler as the superior option between the two, since with the same moveset it can count on slightly better defensive stats.

Ice Shard* + Surf & Skull Bash

Sharing key weaknesses to Fighting and Grass with the Alolan Rocks above (which it’s also quite weak to), Lapras functions as a softer counter to Alolan Marowak and Skarmory, but a much harder one to Altaria. Its bulk allows it to still go toe to toe with Wigglytuff and even with Venusaur.

Ice Shard* + Icy Wind* & Water Pulse

If Lapras is only a check to Alolan Marowak, double legacy Dewgong is even less than that as it has to rely on the terrible Water Pulse instead of Surf. However, we’re still gonna list it here because of how similarly the two work otherwise. Icy Wind’s debuff ability does improve a lot of neutral matchups with shields up, like against Wigglytuff and Skarmory, and can even flip the script on Vigoroth and Obstagoon!

Mud Shot + Fire Punch & Earthquake

The new addition from Kalos is the other main Ground-type of this meta alongside Stunfisk. It does beat Stunfisk itself and has a much more dominating matchup against Marowak, but the Normal subtyping gives it an inconvenient extra weakness to Fighting. On top of that, it gets completely walled by Altaria too. If you haven’t made one yet, no need to rush — it can sit this one out.

Lick + Body Slam & Superpower

By now Snorlax is the definition of a generalist in PvP, and the story is no different here. It’s only weak to Fighting, and can still threaten both Vigoroth and Obstagoon thanks to the coverage move of Superpower. Wigglytuff is its actual toughest counter, as it double resists Lick and can easily survive two Body Slam. Altaria also gives it quite a bit of trouble, but against everything else, it can put in lots of work. Other users of the Lick & Body Slam combination such as Munchlax and Lickitung are also viable, though their secondary charged moves (Bulldoze and Power Whip respectively) aren’t quite as useful as Superpower here.

Wing Attack + Sky Attack & Psychic

Compared to Altaria, the other anti-Marowak Flying tank, Noctowl has the one key advantage of not being weak to Fairy. However, it also can’t touch Skarmory and Electric-types, and it gives up the positive matchups over Vigoroth and Obstagoon. Pidgeot fills a very similar role, just relying more on the fast move damage of Gust.

Bubble + Bubble Beam & Ice Beam

Another interesting generalist of this meta, if it wasn’t for the Electrics zapping around to ruin its day. Debuffing with Bubble Beam is really handy against Charm and Counter users (though Mantine doesn’t consistently beat either), and Ice Beam is a really useful nuke for the Altaria and Grass matchups. If you’re really concerned about the latters you can also opt to run Wing Attack as the fast move: you still beat Alolan Marowak with it, but you’ll have a much harder time against Skarmory. At that point, you might as well play fellow Water/Flying-type Pelipper.

Snarl + Foul Play & Aerial Ace

The last Flying-type in this section and the most interchangeable with Altaria, being weak to Fairy as well. Mandibuzz does perform better against Skarmory, giving up a bit against Electric-types, Vigoroth and Obstagoon in the process. Aerial Ace is needed to avoid being completely walled by the latter

Shadow Claw + Return* & Foul Play

The prominence of Charm users makes Sableye much less suited than usual for the ‘safe switch’ role here. It still boasts strong neutral or positive matchups against pretty much everything else, though! Especially if it’s a Purified one with the Return nuke (really useful in the Obstagoon matchup), and especially if you have enough Sableye candies to power it up over level 40.

Shadow Claw + Shadow Punch (*) & Sludge Bomb

Despite being Poison-types, this duo of crazy glass cannons can’t be considered as counters to Fairy. Sludge Bomb can one-shot a Wigglytuff, and for this reason alone it should be played over Shadow Ball here, but the damage from Charm is so oppressive that with shields up they’ll often go down before landing it. However, despite the rest of the meta not being too kind to them either, these two still do a fantastic job at creating shield advantage situations and getting the most out of them in the late game. Shadow Punch spam is enough to outspeed and outmuscle Alolan Marowak in the clash of Ghosts; note that it is an exclusive move on Gengar, but not on Haunter.

Wild Cards

Powder Snow + Avalanche & Shadow Ball

Thanks to the Ghost subtyping, Froslass stands out from other Ice-types because of its resistance to Fighting. It still has a hard time against Obstagoon, being weak to Night Slash, but it functions very well as a Vigoroth counter and a very pressuring safe switch overall. Compared to Dewgong and Lapras, the drawbacks lie in the weakness to Fire and in the low defensive stats, which make it go down pretty quickly to Charm. Articuno functions quite similarly, boasting much higher bulk with the coveted Icy Wind debuff potential and better Grass matchups, but it takes neutral damage from Fighting instead of resisted.

Powder Snow + Weather Ball Ice & Energy Ball

Being double weak to Alolan Marowak and also generally losing to Charm users, Vigoroth, Obstagoon and Skarmory, this meta might not be the right one for Aboma to shine. To be fair, it can still put in work and force shields against some of its counters above, and the Grass coverage can be handy against the likes of Stunfisk and Lapras. That can’t be said for Snowy Castform, further hindered by an extremely limited movepool, though it does perform better against Skarmory and Wigglytuff.

Bubble + Ice Beam & Energy Ball

Everyone’s favorite dancing pineapple might be more than a meme here, as it’s able to handle Alolan Marowak and deal super effective damage to its most relevant counters, including Altaria, Stunfisk, Alolan Rocks and Lapras! In the 1-shield scenario it can even take down Vigoroth and (with good IVs) Wigglytuff. That leaves it only really weak to Skarmory within the core meta. It might be a fun one to try out!

Bullet Seed + Stone Edge & Grass Knot

A different spicy flavor of Grass-type generalist, equipped with Rock coverage and typing to give some trouble even to Skarmory, Altaria and Alolan Marowak — as well as a surprising amount of bulk to fire off as many as three charged moves against Wigglytuff. Cradily is weak to Counter users, but even those will often have to go into shield disadvantage in order to take it down!

Wing Attack + Night Slash & Earthquake

The unique Flying/Ground combination looks quite interesting on paper, as Gliscor only gets hard countered by Ice, Skarmory and Altaria, and it’s able to hold its own against Vigoroth, Obstagoon, Marowak, Grass, Electric and even Wigglytuff. The main issue is that all of those matchups are very bait-dependent, and when the baits don’t work Gliscor can become frustratingly subpar. The slightly bulkier pre-evolution Gligar can play Aerial Ace and rely less on baiting, but it just doesn’t hit hard enough as a result.

Dragon Tail + Sky Attack & Aeroblast* or Hydro Pump

With just the combination of Dragon Tail and Sky Attack, plus the incredible tankiness, Lugia works as a decent counter to Vigoroth and Altaria, and can harass Obstagoon as well despite being weak to Dark. Adding Aeroblast (which requires an Elite TM for the Great League) and some baiting to the mix, it’s able to nuke even Alolan Marowak and Wigglytuff in the 0- and 1-shield scenarios! Standard Hydro Pump does work just as well against the former, and offers a bit more play against Electric-types like the Alolan Rocks and Stunfisk, but it’s not enough to save the negative Skarmory matchup.

Hex + Icy Wind & Shadow Ball

Another viable Flying-type to add to the list of options: the balloon loses pretty hard to Wigglytuff, but can at least debuff it in the process, and it’s one of the few things able to completely shut down Vigoroth: it double or triple resists its entire moveset! The combination of Icy Wind’s debuffs and coverage with Shadow Ball’s sheer damage grants it playable shielded matchups against most other pokémon the meta too, including Obstagoon, Altaria, Skarmory, Grass-types, and even Stunfisk. Other Electrics and Ice-types are much tougher to deal with.

Volt Switch + Thunder Punch & Wild Charge

While Magneton, Stunfisk and Alolan Rocks stand out among Electric-types for being able to also counter either Wigglytuff or Alolan Marowak, they aren’t the only ones worth mentioning. Alolan Raichu, for example, can work very well to create shield advantage situations, as most things can’t afford to tank a neutral Wild Charge and those that resist it still have to respect the possibility of a Grass Knot or Psychic coming through. However, being so squishy, without shield or energy advantage its neutral matchups are still very inconsistent and it only truly dominates Skarmory and Lapras. Kantonian Raichu and Electivire don’t have the Psychic subtyping to resist Fighting, but they can respectively threaten Obstagoon with Brick Break, and Altaria with Ice Punch, while having the general Wild Charge nuke. Electrode doesn’t have that, but it can hit for super effective damage on Alolan Marowak with Foul Play.

Volt Switch + Lunge & Discharge

The spider has more relevant weaknesses than the other Electrics above, going down quite unceremoniously to Alolan Marowak, Altaria, Stunfisk and Charm users due to its low bulk, and also having a pretty bad time against Alolan Rocks. It makes up for that with positive matchups against Vigoroth and Obstagoon, as well as more playable ones against Grass-types.

Example Teams

After looking at every single meta-relevant pokémon in the format, let’s try to build a few balanced teams around them! Of course, these lineups can be tweaked however you prefer, and only serve as a way to showcase some different ways to build them.

Wigglytuff lead + Alolan Marowak and Obstagoon

The backline covers Wiggly’s main weaknesses to Steel-types and Alolan Marowak itself. An opposing Grass/Poison lead might be tough to come back from.

Altaria lead + Skarmory and Vigoroth

Despite both being Flying-types, Altaria and Skarmory don’t really share many weaknesses in this format, as the former can handle Electric and Fire, and the latter holds its own against Ice and especially Fairies. Facing an Alolan Sandslash lead would be the worst scenario, but we don’t expect to see too many of those. Vigoroth, of course, works as the safe switch here.

Alolan Graveler lead + Venusaur and Drifblim

Alolan Graveler and Venusaur actually have fantastic synergy, as the latter can beat the main weaknesses of the former: Victreebel, Vigoroth, Obstagoon and Stunfisk. Against these leads you can switch in Drifblim to try and get back switch advantage.

Stunfisk lead + Cradily and Froslass

Here’s a spicier lineup for those that don’t like sticking to the meta: both Cradily and Froslass work very well with energy and shield advantages, and while they both technically lose to Alolan Marowak, Wigglytuff and Obstagoon, they can hit them back hard. As a bulky generalist, Stunfisk would be useful to pivot and soak damage, as long as you don’t face too much Grass.

If you like more unbalanced strategies instead, we already mentioned two lineups that could quickly rise in popularity (at the cost of being labeled as annoying): Alolan Marowak + double Charm users, and Skarmory + double Counter users.

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About the Author(s)

Writer and graphic designer for GamePress, from Sicily (Italy). Illustrator since childhood.